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Are Companies Liable in the U.S. for Abuses Abroad?

Jaclyn Jaeger | November 22, 2011

A split has emerged among federal appeals courts over whether corporations can be held liable in U.S. courtrooms for human rights abuses conducted overseas—with the California-based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, as usual, charting its own course for corporate liability.

That court decided on a 6-5 vote in late October that mining giant Rio Tinto could be held liable under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) for allegations that the company aided the Papua New Guinea government in committing genocide and war crimes. It was the latest ruling in a running legal dispute over whether companies can be held liable in the United States under the ATS for charges of human rights violations in foreign countries. Last year, the New York-based Second Circuit Court held that the ATS extends only to civil actions against individuals, not actions against corporations.

Shortly after the Ninth Circuit Court's ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case this term that will finally... To get the full story, subscribe now.